JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said he is pursuing criminal charges against a group of cops who were seen on video kicking and dragging an innocent man who was on fire and needed help.
Fulop called the video that shows the getting kicked by officers following a police chase and fiery crash “unacceptable.”
“The video kinda speaks for itself. Any reasonable person seeing the video would say they’re not trying to be helpful,” he said.
The crash happened Sunday night on Route 1 and 9, Tonnelle Avenue. In the video, a man engulfed in flames can be seen frantically rolling from the wreckage.
With their guns drawn, police approach the man as he kneels and rips away clothing. Then one officer kicks him to the ground and at least one other joins in, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported. Eventually, police drag him into the street.
Witness Erik Roberto shot the cell phone video and says he was about to help that man on fire, 28-year-old Miguel Feliz, but stopped when he saw police.
“When I see the cops approaching, they started kicking him and grabbing him, pulling him out of the way,” he said. “I was screaming, ‘help him out, help him out.'”
According to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, those officers had the wrong man, saying they “believe with certainty that this man is the bystander” and not the suspect involved in the chase.
“They made a huge mistake treating this guy that way,” Roberto said. “He wasn’t the one they was chasing.”
Authorities said Jersey City police had been pursuing 48-year-old Leo Pinkston after trying to pull him over. Pinkston allegedly got into at least two crashes along the way, including one with a utility pole and Feliz, who was in another car.
In response to the video, Fulop tweeted: “2 b clear. This is unacceptable. We’re IDing officers. We’ll pursue termination + criminal charges as appropriate.”
But the police union is defending the officers and lashing out at Fulop.
“Mayor Fulop’s statements and actions over the last days, his decision not to allow for a thorough and fair investigation, show again that his thoughts are with politics and not policing,” said Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officer’s Benevolent Association.
Earlier, the union said the video “clearly shows that the officers acted quickly to extinguish the flames, and pull this man out of harm’s way.”
The mayor said too many mistakes were made.
“From firing their weapons to the pursuit, to how they interacted with the victim, to having the wrong person,” he said, “It was just poor judgement after poor judgement. So I just think those are people that we don’t want on the Jersey City Police Department.”
Feliz remains hospitalized and is scheduled for surgery Thursday.
Pinkston has been charged with eluding and aggravated assault.